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The Litigation Consulting Report

How Many PowerPoint Slides Should You Use in a Typical Trial?

Posted by Ken Lopez on Mon, Sep 26, 2016 @ 01:45 PM

how-many-powerpoint-slides-too-many.jpgby Ken Lopez
Founder/CEO
A2L Consulting

How many slides should a world-class trial lawyer or trial presentation consultant create for use in a typical trial? That’s an interesting question that I hadn’t thought of until recently, when I had a fascinating debate with some litigators about this topic. One took the view that a trial with twice as many issues should require twice as many slides, even if the two trials are of equal length. I disagreed, and I think these litigators found my position confusing at first.

I told them that the presumption for any trial team should be to use as few slides as possible to make a point. More slides just create more complexity. And that inhibits persuasion.

There's a famous quote that has been attributed to many people, but it is correctly attributed to French mathematician Blaise Pascal: “I would have written a shorter letter if I had more time.” I think this sums up in many ways the goals of effective trial presentation. If you find yourself going to trial with 500 slides that you plan to use in a five-day trial, you are probably overdoing it. But people do that all the time.

I wrote about this topic in an article discussing how the PowerPoint slides that you do use are informed by the ones you don't. I think of it like a sculptor and Michelangelo’s famous saying how he could see the finished piece in the block of stone, he just needed to chip away the extraneous stones.

I do think trial presentation should work something like that. That's why it takes a long time to make a good presentation and why you should not find yourself at the end of the trial apologizing for not having written that shorter letter.

Here are a handful of best practices for any PowerPoint slide presentation with additional reading incorporated throughout:

  • Don't use bullet points. I've said this so many times that I'm nervous about over-repeating this stance. It's not the bullets that are bad, of course. It's that when you use them, you tend to commit all of of the PowerPoint slide sins that measurably and are scientifically known to diminish persuasion.

Other A2L articles related to using PowerPoint slides well in or out of the courtroom include:

Tags: Trial Graphics, Trial Consultants, Litigation Graphics, Mock Trial, Trial Consulting, Presentation Graphics, Advocacy Graphics, PowerPoint, Persuasive Graphics

SPICE Is the Key to Persuasion

Posted by Alex Brown on Wed, Jun 22, 2016 @ 02:12 PM

SPICE persuasion of jurors judgeby Alex Brown
Director of Operations
A2L Consulting

My 11-year-old is addicted to cooking shows – so much so that my DVR is full of episodes of Triple D, Chopped, Good Eats, Cutthroat Kitchen, and Chopped Junior. Last night she was talking about how she loves the idea of spices, but is not a fan because she equates it to spicy food, which she does not enjoy. Then she throws her hands up and says, you know what they say, “Variety is the spice of life.”

This morning, that statement has been bouncing around in my head and made me think about a book I read in 2011. It was written by Kevin Dutton, Ph.D., and was called Split-Second Persuasion: The Ancient Art & New Science of Changing Minds. Dutton's message boiled down to just five elements, encompassed in the acronym SPICE. These five elements are the key to persuading people, including jurors.

SIMPLICITY: According to a report published by Microsoft in 2015, the average human attention span has dropped from 12 seconds in 2000, to eight seconds in 2013. By comparison, goldfish have an attention span of nine seconds. So keep demonstratives simple by breaking down the complex in bite-sized packets of information.

self-interest-persuasion.jpgPERCEIVED SELF-INTEREST: I saw this patch (pictured right) and thought it defines self-interest better than anything I could say.

INCONGRUITY: We are most comfortable when we surround ourselves with patterns or routines. When you break that pattern, it unexpectedly draws attention. Use this to make a point or to have someone see something in a different light.

CONFIDENCE: When faced with the word, “confidence,” we automatically think about self-assurance. But, when thinking about how to graphically show confidence, consider the definition of creating trust.

EMPATHY: When developing empathy with a jury, your goal is to put yourself in the shoes of another. Creating an attachment with them allows them to root for your client.

litigation leadership 4th edition

Tags: Science, Psychology, PowerPoint, Persuasion, Cognitive Bias

12 Things About PowerPoint You Probably Never Knew

Posted by Alex Brown on Thu, Jun 9, 2016 @ 11:47 AM


PowerPoint tips tricks lawyers opening statementsby Alex Brown
Director of Operations
A2L Consulting

The definition of power is the capacity or ability to direct or influence the behavior of others or the course of events. Graphic artists of all shapes and sizes, once they fully delve into using the Microsoft PowerPoint tool, usually end up surprised by the power inherent in PowerPoint.

When you hear people say they hate PowerPoint presentations, they usually use excuses like; “It’s too wordy, excessive effects, it puts me to sleep, Group read along, Rorschach effect, frivolous fonts, and BULLET POINTS!”

The truth is they are correct. PowerPoint is not always used to create litigation graphics to the best effect. But that doesn’t mean you should blame the tool. Here are 12 tips and features of PowerPoint that will excite and enlighten even the most creative thinker.

  1. Narrate over slides. This is especially effective when you need to create a technology tutorial or explain otherwise complicated material. We have done this for many a client using professional narrators and always with the desired effect. The audience is engaged and understanding the message as they should.

  2. Pan and zoom. Images can do more than just appear on the screen. You can create movement to keep your audience focused on what you want them to focus on. This is effective when you have a lot of images that you want to share, but in the end, you want them to focus on a specific one. You can use the zoom feature to focus them and then you can add callouts so they understand what they are seeing and what you want them to remember.

  3. Embed a functioning Excel worksheet. Suppose that your damages expert has made some brilliant worksheets. Embed them into your deck. There’s no reason to use paper handouts or to switch from one program to another. You can also manipulate the worksheet so they focus on the numbers that are key.

  4. Pop-up/call out Instead of having a slide appear completely filled with text, have it appear when needed and be replaced as you move down your key points. This is effective because you allow your audience’s eyes to focus on specific things and keep them engaged. Science dictates that they will retain more information this way.

  5. Charts. They can be used effectively to show how things relate to each other, such as a timeline, organizational chart, flow chart, or process diagram. Lawyers often are afraid to use charts because they fear that the audience will get ahead of the message. This is true in many cases, which is why you want them to build up slowly, not just sit on the screen as a static image.

    powerpoint litigation graphics consultants

  6. Pictogram or infographic images. What is expected from a trial team changes almost monthly. Today, infographics are huge, and the icons, images, and feel of infographics are comfortable and accepted. Use today’s marketing messaging to your advantage so your audience receives the message and retains the information.

  7. Highlight text to draw attention. Use a call-out to highlight a quote or a section of a contract. You want the audience to get the feel of what is being highlighted but you also want them to remember a few impact words. We all remember the old videos with the “follow the bouncing ball.” Take advantage of that familiarity and highlight the text at the moment you want them to focus on that impact word. It can be a very powerful way to get a message across to your audience.

  8. Illuminate, glow, or change the color of the text to draw attention. Like highlighting, you can also be subtle and use these options to almost subconsciously get them to remember impact words during deliberation.

  9. Embed videos. Today, your audience expects you to show them something that will wow them. If you don’t, you run the risk of disappointing them or even making them feel as if you were simply not trying hard enough. You want to keep their attention; what better way to grab it then to add video to your deck. You no longer need to bring up a different program or use a machine to play video. On a click, you can show them exactly what you want, highlight things throughout, create pop-ups or call-outs around it. This is very powerful and something we have been doing for years. See, 16 PowerPoint Litigation Graphics You Won't Believe Are PowerPoint.

  10. Animations. Many people fear animations, and they should. The courtroom is not a good place for flashing, spinning, exploding transitions. Animations are incorporated, however, in all of our decks, used sometimes without detection. The best effects are the ones that draw attention to the message, not the transition.

  11. Create custom bullets. Bullet points kill your presentation, period. But we still use lists, just in a way that does not make it LOOK like a bullet list. Create icons instead of black or colored dots. Don’t use them at the beginning, but add check marks at the end. This changes the feel and increases impact.

  12. Use 3D effects. This goes right back to what the audience expects. If you need to use a 3D image, use it. We have done this for impact and retention for years. You do not need to always use a 3D program to do it. We have used movement to backgrounds to simulate depth and perspective. All in PowerPoint. See, 16 PowerPoint Litigation Graphics You Won't Believe Are PowerPoint.

It is not your job to learn different litigation graphics packages to entertain your audience. It is your job to keep your audience engaged by employing these and hundreds of other persuasion tools so they learn and retain the information needed to achieve success when the verdict is handed down.

using litigation graphics courtroom to persuade trial graphics a2l consulting

Other articles and resources related to the use of PowerPoint at trial, litigation graphics and PowerPoint trial graphics generally:

Tags: Trial Graphics, Litigation Graphics, Animation, Presentation Graphics, Advocacy Graphics, PowerPoint, Persuasive Graphics, Visual Persuasion, Infographics

3 Trial Preparation Red Flags That Suggest a Loss is Imminent

Posted by Ken Lopez on Wed, Mar 2, 2016 @ 09:24 AM


trial preparation red flags litigator behavior loss associatedby Ken Lopez

Founder/CEO
A2L Consulting

In 20 years as a litigation consultant, I’ve personally seen hundreds of litigators try cases, and I have heard the observations of my colleagues on other cases, probably amounting to thousands of cases in all. So I’m in a pretty good position to evaluate what works and what doesn’t work, based on a non-scientific study of trials and trial teams.

One might think that a litigator who has been living and breathing a case for years is more likely to win a jury verdict than a litigator who has just been brought in for the trial. But I just don’t see that. Litigators do well in both situations. It is true, however, that trial teams that prepare longer and harder for trial are more likely to win.

There are, however, some trial preparation patterns that constitute “red flags” and indicate to me that a trial team may be headed for trouble. Here are three of them.

1) Extensive debates among the team about font, color, and PowerPoint templates. This often spells trouble. For example, if your litigation graphics shop (likely experts in visual persuasion) have produced more than 10 PowerPoint template/font/color combinations, and the merits of each are still being debated by the lawyers, the team is likely focusing on the wrong thing. Now a healthy debate about color, fonts, and templates can be OK. But don’t forget that there’s no real scientific agreement on what colors or fonts are persuasive, and also remember that some litigation graphics shops are experts in the nuances of color theory, font choice, and visual persuasion. So, when I see a litigator spending weeks on a template, I know we're in trouble.

2) Secretiveness about the case. Sometimes we see clients who are hesitant to talk about their case or who bristle when asked, "How could the opposition win?" The best litigators want to have their answers questioned. They are the furthest thing from yes-men or yes-women. See $300 Million of Litigation Consulting and Storytelling Validation to understand the kind of work some high-end litigators put in to generate a win.

3) Infighting between law firms. Once this breaks out, the real battle becomes which law firm will triumph rather than which side of the case will triumph. It almost always leads to a loss. If there is the slightest whiff of this behavior, in-house counsel must step in and eliminate it immediately. Allowing this sort of "drama" to persist simply increases the likelihood that the corporate budget for the arts is about to increase markedly (in the form of a losing verdict). See 5 Tips for Working Well As a Joint Defense Team.

However, all these behaviors, in my experience, can be reversed. Very often, they are simply tactics to avoid dealing with a real problem in the case. Good mock testing and good recognition of the behaviors as they are happening can often save a case in trouble. Sometimes, it is up to in-house counsel to assert their leadership and eliminate these behaviors.

Other A2L articles and resources about litigation leadership, in-house counsel, and trial preparation include:

in-house counsel litigation toolkit e-book free download

Tags: Trial Graphics, Litigation Graphics, Mock Trial, Demonstrative Evidence, Litigation Management, Trial Preparation, Leadership, PowerPoint, In-House Counsel

The Top 15 Free Litigation and Persuasion Articles of 2015

Posted by Ken Lopez on Thu, Dec 31, 2015 @ 12:31 PM

litigation consulting jury consultants litigation graphics dc new york california texas chicago bostonby Ken Lopez
Founder/CEO
A2L Consulting

Nearly 200,000 visits were made to A2L Consulting's Litigation Consulting Report Blog in 2015. With every page view, our readers express their opinion of the value of each article. Those that are the most valuable get the most page views. Today, I'm happy to share the very best articles of 2015 as chosen by our readers' reading habits.

This year, we posted 90 new articles, and that brings our total blog library to nearly 500 articles. If you are involved in litigation or have to persuade a skeptical audience of anything, these articles are an incredibly valuable resource that are available at absolutely no charge.

As we approach our five-year anniversary of this blog, I am very proud of our accomplishments. I'm excited to report that we now have 7,800 subscribers, some articles have been viewed more than 30,000 times, and the ABA named ours one of the top blogs in the legal industry. Not bad for our first five years.

In 2015, these 15 articles below stood out as the very top articles of 2015. Articles focused on PowerPoint, litigation graphics, persuasion, and voir dire continue to dominate our readers' interest.

Each of these articles can be easily tweeted or shared on Linkedin using the buttons below the article title. All are free to enjoy.

I wish you the very best 2016, and here is a link to claim a free subscription so that you get notified when these articles are published.


15. How to Make PowerPoint Trial Timelines Feel More Like a Long Document

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14. A Surprising New Reason to Repeat Yourself at Trial

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13. Lawyer Delivers Excellent PowerPoint Presentation

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12. With So Few Trials, Where Do You Find Trial Experience Now?

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11. 5 Ways to Maximize Persuasion During Opening Statements - Part 1

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10. How to Apply Cialdini's 6 Principles of Persuasion in the Courtroom

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9. 9 Things In-House Counsel Say About Outside Litigation Counsel

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8. Repelling the Reptile Trial Strategy - Pt 4 - 7 Reasons the Tactic Still Works

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7. 10 Ways to Lose Voir Dire

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6. Repelling the Reptile Strategy - Part 3 - Understanding the Bad Science

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5. How Much Text on a PowerPoint Slide is Too Much?

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4. Repelling the Reptile Trial Strategy - Part 5 - 12 Ways to Kill the Reptile

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3. Repelling the Reptile Trial Strategy - Pt 2 - 10 Ways to Spot the Reptile

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2. Repelling the Reptile Trial Strategy as Defense Counsel - Part 1

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1. Why the Color of a Dress Matters to Litigators and Litigation Graphics

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a2l consulting top 75 articles of all time

Tags: Trial Graphics, Litigation Graphics, Demonstrative Evidence, Juries, Voir Dire, Psychology, PowerPoint, Visual Persuasion, Redundancy Effect, Opening, Persuasion

3 Observations by a Graphic Artist Turned Litigation Graphics Artist

Posted by Maureen Vogel on Tue, Dec 22, 2015 @ 10:30 AM

graphic design litigation artistby Maureen Vogel
Litigation Graphics Artist
A2L Consulting

Before becoming an artist here at A2L Consulting, I was what you might call a typical graphic designer. I specialized in creating visual art, primarily for nonprofit organizations in the Washington, DC area. My primary focus was usually to visually convey a single important message with each graphic. I’d never concerned myself personally or professionally with the world of litigation.

When I was a graphic designer, the software platforms Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign were my standard canvas. However, as a litigation graphics artist, I usually stick to PowerPoint as the fundamental visual presentation tool. Although graphics may often incorporate visual concepts developed outside the PowerPoint platform, this is the foundation for presentation, and much of my artwork is now done in PowerPoint itself (and sometimes in Keynote for Apple devices). PowerPoint is a surprisingly powerful tool. In addition, I have noticed that there are quite a few differences between graphic design and litigation graphics art.

Here are some of the differences I have observed that I find most interesting.

1. Color psychology is very important in litigation-focused graphics.

litigation-graphics-pyschology-color-meaning.jpgYes, color psychology is important in the graphic design realm as well. But in litigation graphics, using the wrong colors in court could offend your audience or negatively affect their mood. That would be a catastrophe.

One example I’ve encountered at work was when the client asked me to change a list of people’s names on a PowerPoint slide from black to red. Red is a color we generally try to avoid in PowerPoint slides because it can increase aggressive feelings in audience members (jurors). Also, I had my own personal aversion to red; depending on the culture, the color red can also invoke very different emotions. For example, in Japan, my home country, writing a person’s name in red means that person will die soon. This would accordingly evoke a very specific emotion in the wrong audience. Because the client’s goal in changing the black font to red was simply to make it more visible and not necessarily to invoke feelings of alarm or aggression toward the people listed, we suggested a brighter blue font instead of red. Almost any color you can think of invokes a specific emotional response, so plan accordingly for your litigation graphics.

A2L is looking for talented graphic designers! Read more here.

2. Litigation design tends to have uncertain or very tight deadlines

deadlines-trial-graphics-litigation.gifWhen I was a graphic designer and did freelance graphic design work, I usually had a good idea of when the project needed to be done. This is not the case with litigation graphics. But perhaps it should be.

As a litigation graphic artist, I sometimes feel like a doctor on call. Trial dates can be changed at any time, and projects that were once due in a week can all of a sudden be due much sooner.

If you want your litigation graphic artist to create very persuasive demonstratives, make sure to devote enough time to brainstorm what graphics are needed to support your client’s story and also give the artist ample time to complete the work. This seems simple enough, but I see that that trial teams more often than not wait until what seems like the last minute to begin to develop the visual component of their trial presentation. From working with A2L, I know that this does not fit with the best practices. I suggest that trial teams begin thinking about how they’ll present their cases to a jury (or judge) many months in advance of actually needing to do so. This gives them enough time to plan for the arguments and to have a professional team craft winning graphics to go with those arguments.

3. Creativity is often influenced by the judge

demonstrative-evidence-consultant.jpgAs a graphic designer, my task was to portray information in the most creative way possible. Litigation design, on the other hand, usually isn’t a contest to see how artistic you can be (it helps, but that’s not the main focus). The judge often will determine the level of creativity required or allowed for courtroom graphics.

Before clients hire us, they typically need to get permission from the judge for the types of demonstratives allowed at trial (e.g., PowerPoint, posters, videos, etc.). Once the types of demonstratives are decided upon, we begin creating graphics accordingly. Sometimes a set of visually pleasing graphics that we’ve created need to be reduced to what one might call “bland” visuals because according to the client, “the judge is very conservative.

For those who believe they will be shot down for being too creative, consider that sometimes an element of surprise is a good thing. Creativity can be conservative, and higher style can be more engaging to even the most conservative of audiences. Words don’t persuade; arguments do. I suggest crafting visuals that convey ideas and emotions rather than pure language – asking an audience, be it a judge or juror, to remember words and more words is not engaging.

Overall, there are quite a few differences between graphic art and litigation-focused graphic art; however, in the end, they both require knowledge of the foundations of art and design – which are concepts appreciated by any audience.

A2L is looking for talented graphic designers! Read more here.

A2L Consulting articles focused on demonstrative evidence, trial graphics, and litigation graphics consulting:

using litigation graphics courtroom to persuade trial graphics a2l consulting

 

Tags: Trial Graphics, Litigation Graphics, Demonstrative Evidence, Presentation Graphics, Advocacy Graphics, PowerPoint, Persuasive Graphics, Infographics, Information Design

What Does A Case-Winning Trial Graphic Look Like?

Posted by Ryan Flax on Fri, Dec 18, 2015 @ 12:57 PM

itc-litigation-graphics-wiper-blades-patentby Ryan H. Flax
(Former) Managing Director, Litigation Consulting
A2L Consulting

Sometimes a trial graphic really does make the difference.

We can’t say that in each case we’re involved in, a trial graphic likely won the case or played a major role in the win. We support some of the best lawyers in the country and they use the tools we provide to do what they do at trial. Usually we’re there to make sure they do the best they can do, but sometimes we provide that key image or animation (and the associated consulting input) that really clicks with a judge or jury and enables the win. Here’s a recent example.

“Insert, Pivot, and Lock”

This was a patent infringement case before the U.S. International Trade Commission concerning the connection mechanism between automobile windshield wiper blades and wiper arms – that little piece of plastic that might as well be a Rubik’s cube for most of us almost every time we need to change our wiper blades. Our client held several patents covering a very special wiper blade connector that was being ripped off by a competitor. To win at trial (final hearing at the ITC), we had to get the judge to agree to our way of understanding the rather verbose patent claim language covering what was a simple, although elegant, invention.

patent-claim-language-trial-graphic.jpgHere’s an example of the claim language captured as an image from the patent:

I’d say that this is a challenging read, whether you’re a judge, a patent attorney, or a fast food restaurant cashier. It’s pretty technically complex and rather long. Definitely “lawyery.” No doubt that it satisfies the legal requirements for claim language, but it almost takes one’s breath away.

We needed to distill this language and the concepts behind it into something that was easily understandable, but we couldn’t be over-argumentative about it. Upon reading this claim language with the benefit of the rest of the patent’s disclosure and the reader’s own common sense, the invention had to seem simple (but elegant).

With that understanding, how do you do it?

After a good deal of brainstorming with the litigation team, we found that the core of the invention was the configuration of elements that allows a user to join a wiper blade to a wiper arm by simply inserting the end of the wiper arm into the connector and then pivoting the two parts together so that they securely lock with one another. Easy enough to say, but it wasn’t so easy to actually identify this concept and explain it with any level of simplicity and specificity and persuasiveness.

After a good deal more brainstorming and whiteboard drawing, we developed a graphic design that really explained it. It was much easier to grasp the inventive concept and more convincing to show it visually, as follows:

With the animation above, we boiled down the claim language into something understandable by anyone, tangible, and acceptable for the judge. We can SEE it; he could see it. It makes perfect sense. The invention (and the infringing products) must work this way – of course.

It may look exceedingly simple, but I assure you it is not. It was not so simple to conceive as a solution to the obstacles in the case. It was not so simple to design conceptually. And it was not so simple to develop the 2D animation (all in Microsoft PowerPoint, I might add). It all works and worked perfectly.

After we showed this animation to the judge during the claim construction hearing, and after the accompanying argument, he eventually began reciting the tag-line of “insert, pivot, and lock” himself in addressing questions to counsel. A pretty good result to that point.

The results of the case were even better.

In the public version of Judge Pender’s Initial Determination (at 32), when discussing the claim construction, he titles one section “The End Portion of the Wiper Arm and the Connecting Element Can Pivot with respect to Each Other About the First Location Until Said Securing Portion Secures the Second Part of the End Portion of the Wiper Arm.” This illustrates that he really gets it. He doesn’t mention the insertion part here, but this part of his final opinion is devoted to the concept that after that insertion the two wiper system components pivot together to lock securely, just as the demonstrative shows. It is clear that the accused devices do this and equally clear that the prior art does not, so the judge’s recognition of this concept is critical to both making the infringement case and overcoming the opposing invalidity case.

In the infringement part of his Initial Determination (at 36 et seq.), Judge Pender identifies that the accused devices are assembled via a “simple pivoting motion.” Thus, in his finding, they infringe the patent’s claims. The claims cover “insert, pivot, and lock.” The covered product works by “insert[ing], pivot[ing], and lock[ing].” And the accused devices infringe because they, too, “insert, pivot, and lock.”

Winner!

Moreover, the animation above does more than establish that the wiper blades are connected by inserting, pivoting, and locking. It shows that this motion of locking can be engaged from either side of the wiper blade, that is, in a “toe-to-heel” or in a “heel-to-toe” insertion and pivoting. This was also crucial to establishing infringement by the accused devices (see Initial Determination at 40 et seq.). Judge Pender found that the respondent’s arguments that they couldn’t infringe because their products connected in a backwards sort of way compared to the complainants’ devices were just plainly erroneous.

The result of all these favorable events was a complete victory for our client. The judge found a violation of Section 337 and recommended that the commission issue an exclusion order against the opposing party, which will stop importation of the accused, infringing wiper blade products.

It is not my intention to minimize in any way the wonderful advocacy by our client in this matter. It was truly outstanding. I believe that counsel’s trial strategy combined with the effective demonstrative evidence really sealed the deal here. Seeing, in this case, was believing.

Other articles on A2L Consulting's site related to patent litigation and the use of visuals in patent trials, in the ITC and in IPRs:

patent litigation demonstrative evidence

Tags: Patent Tutorial, Trial Graphics, Litigation Graphics, Demonstrative Evidence, Patent Litigation, Advocacy Graphics, PowerPoint, Persuasive Graphics, ITC

The Effective Use of PowerPoint Presentation During Opening Statement

Posted by Lorraine Kestle on Fri, Dec 11, 2015 @ 10:15 AM

powerpoint-opening-statements-litigation-graphics-trialby Lorraine Kestle
Graphic Designer
A2L Consulting

The age-old adage that there are two sides (at least) to every story is clearly evident in litigation. Both parties believe that the applicable law, when applied to the facts, supports their position, or they likely would not be going to court. The parties and the lawyers are familiar with the facts and the law. Everyone fully understands the nuances of their position.

Everyone, that is, but the judge and jury who are hearing the case for the first time. It is these “novices to the case” who will ultimately decide which version of the facts or story is most persuasive.

For one day, I was a “novice to the case” in the courtroom as I helped our trial technician set up for a PowerPoint presentation in court. I observed both sides’ opening statements as well as the direct and cross-examinations.

Although I have been in the courtroom on numerous occasions, I had no prior knowledge of the substance of this matter and did not work on this presentation. Our client, the plaintiff in this case, delivered an opening statement that was enhanced with a PowerPoint presentation, while opposing counsel relied on typed or handwritten notes and an easel with a large paper tablet. After observing both approaches, I came away with what I think are interesting conclusions about the effect that the PowerPoint presentation had on my understanding of the case, the attorney’s arguments, and my initial impression of liability.

1. An Increased Perception Of Preparation, Competence And Persuasion

As a former paralegal, I know that preparation is one of the keys to success in litigation. And while I believe both sides were equally prepared, this was not the impression created in the courtroom by defendant’s counsel. What set the opening statements apart was the PowerPoint presentation used by our client. It served as a baseline of comparison for what followed.

The PowerPoint presentation not only emphasized key components of the opening statement, but it also added an air of competency and depth to the arguments being made. There was a clear, logical, and concise flow of information that was easy to follow. The visual presentation and callouts of relevant portions of emails and the employment contract clearly substantiated the verbal argument. This ultimately increased the impact of and the persuasive value of the opening statement. I have a clear visual picture of those emails and the contract that were the cornerstone evidence in the plaintiff’s case, even if I cannot recall the exact wording.

When defendant’s counsel did not use any visual or graphic presentations to support the opening statement, my first thought was, “Why is that?” My focus was not where it should have been; it was not on what he was saying. In fact, I was distracted by the numerous sheets of paper defense counsel brought to the podium and the yellow Post-it notes that were on it. It gave me the impression that they were less prepared than the plaintiff, which may or may not be the case. Nonetheless, this was my initial impression and I think ultimately influenced my view of their argument.

2. Increased Retention of Evidence Presented

For me, the evidence presented had greater weight when I could actually see the email communications that were made and the contract that was signed by the defendant. The document exhibit callouts, in particular, which supported the plaintiff’s arguments, became visually imprinted on my mind. And I received no other visual images from the defendant to compare or contrast them with. When I look back on that day, it is the callouts that I recall. This is what I remember, more than three days later.

3. Increased Attention to Arguments

When you are sitting behind the bar in the courtroom, you have a limited view of the exhibits and evidence being presented. However, when the PowerPoint slides were tied into the court’s monitors, it was much easier to see the evidence being offered. I found that I paid closer attention to the arguments being made; I was actively engaged in “looking” at the evidence to see if I agreed with what the lawyer was saying.   I could see that everyone, including the judge, was looking at the courtroom monitors.

On the other hand, when the defendant’s counsel was creating a live, hand-drawn organizational chart during cross-examination, not only could I not see it due to its orientation in the courtroom, I felt that it was too far away from the individual who was testifying and the judge. It was more difficult to follow the argument being made.

In conclusion, when I left court that day, I felt that the opening statement set the tone for everything that followed. The effective use of a PowerPoint presentation during the trial enhanced the arguments being made and, at the end of the day, our client prevailed. I can’t say I’m surprised at the outcome. They had me during opening statements.

Other A2L Consulting articles and resources related to persuading with graphics, opening statements and using words and pictures in a complimentary way:

opening statements toolkit ebook download a2l  

Tags: Trial Graphics, Litigation Graphics, Demonstrative Evidence, Psychology, PowerPoint, Opening, Document Call-Outs, Trial Boards

Lawyer Delivers Excellent PowerPoint Presentation

Posted by Ken Lopez on Tue, Nov 10, 2015 @ 02:42 PM


ted talk lawyers lawrence lessig presentation style litigation graphicsby Ken Lopez

Founder/CEO
A2L Consulting

The title of this article shouldn't sound like a breaking news headline, but let's be honest, it does. Most PowerPoint presentations are bullet-point-riddled text-heavy electronic projections of a speaker's notes. Most lawyer-delivered PowerPoint presentations are the same — just with even more text and smaller fonts.

As a result, a significant majority of speakers (and lawyers) using PowerPoint presentations are hard to understand and dramatically less persuasive than they could be. There are exceptions of course.

The kinds of litigators and others who become clients of A2L Consulting's litigation graphics division are the first exceptions. They typically learn the rules of effective presentation and high-level visual persuasion based on well-established neuroscience principles and rigorous psychological studies.

The second exception is Lawrence Lessig, a Harvard law professor.

I had the pleasure of seeing him deliver a presentation at TEDx MidAtlantic recently. Whether or not one agrees with his message, almost everyone can learn a lot from his presentation style and the methods he used to achieve visual persuasion. Here is a video of that presentation:

Professor Lessig did so many things correctly in this presentation that it is worthy of study by litigators and presenters alike. I'm not going to suggest that this is a perfect presentation for a courtroom environment, but it is a very good model for a situation where you want to persuade an audience to act or see things your way. Still, there are important lessons for the courtroom here.

Understand that when I say this is "a very good model" that I'm not simply giving my opinion (even if it is based on 20+ years of helping litigators win cases using visual persuasion techniques). Rather, this assertion is based on the latest science about what persuades people.

In contrast to my articles pointing out what can go wrong like The 12 Worst PowerPoint Mistakes Litigators MakeThe 14 Most Preventable Trial Preparation Mistakes and 6 Trial Presentation Errors Lawyers Can Easily Avoid, here is a time-coded list of seventeen things I see that Professor Lessig did exceptionally well.

  1. 00:22: Attention Grabbing Words: His first few sentences use words designed to get you interested. When we hear "protest," "Hong Kong," and "China," most people are going to take notice given the historical inconsistency between these terms.

  2. 00:32: Use of Video: Showing moving pictures is more captivating than a still image, and starting off with video serves to draw the audience in emotionally from the very beginning. The fact that this is a protest by children further serves to drawn in the audience emotionally.

  3. 00:55: Text Highlighting. It is generally a bad idea to read what is on screen. Notice how you don't really understand what he is reading while you're looking at it. That's because of the split attention effect. When he takes away the unnecessary words, you see exactly what he wants you to remember. That is a good method of highlighting your key message.

  4. 1:05: Pace Change: He begins his presentation slowly to draw in the audience in the first 30 seconds and now changes his pace to start to make his case. Changing the pace of one's speech is excellent for keeping interest. You'll notice he slows down at the end as well. In fact, he slows down whenever he wants to make an emotional point and make it stick
    storytelling for judge jury courtroom best method for trial persuasion and emotion
  5. 1:07: Clear and Easy-to-Understand Persuasive Graphics: The imagery is simple and supports a simple point. There are two steps, and a small group stands in the middle to act as a filter. He uses a nice clear graphic to describe gerrymandering at 13:51 as well. Litigation graphics do not have to be complex to be effective. See Litigation Graphics: It's Not a Beauty Contest and 16 PowerPoint Litigation Graphics You Won't Believe Are PowerPoint.

  6. 1:20: Proper Font Size: Except here for making a point, Professor Lessig rarely gets below 28 point font size. See 12 Ways to Eliminate "But I Need Everything On That PowerPoint Slide."

  7. 1:28: Use of Information Design Principles: I wrote about the use of dots to represent small numbers in Securities Litigation Graphics and Juror Communication, and it is a useful technique, especially when combined with a more literal explanation and an oral explanation.

  8. 2:35: Appropriate Use of Humor: He works in a House of Cards reference without ever saying a thing and draws a big laugh. Humor certainly does not always work in the courtroom, but in this environment, it is entirely appropriate.

  9. 4:09: Analogy: Notice how Professor Lessig connects the concepts of China, Tweeds, Whites, Funders and more using the same text graphic and changing one word to carry through an analogy. He does this again at 7:50 when flipping between the America and China slides. See Courtroom Exhibits: Analogies and Metaphors as Persuasion Devices and Lists of Analogies, Metaphors and Idioms for Lawyers.

  10. 6:42: Nod to Steve Jobs: From the background used to the font size to the black mock turtleneck to the style of presentation generally, Professor Lessig is clearly a student of the extremely effective Steve Jobs-style presentation technique. See the 4th video in my article 12 Reasons Bullet Points Are Bad (in Trial Graphics or Anywhere), and you'll see exactly what I mean.

  11. 8:15: Immersive Graphics Presentation Style: We've written about the Broda-Bahm study demonstrating that the use of an immersive style (frequently changing and persistently used) of presentation has been shown to have the most persuasive effect on jurors. Professor Lessig uses this technique better than just about every lawyer that I've seen present.

  12. 11:42 and Throughout: Repetition: His use of visual repetition of charts and oral repetition is excellent. Count how many times he mentions "inequality" here. We wrote about how important repetition is for persuasion recently in A Surprising New Reason to Repeat Yourself at Trial.

  13. 17:00 Repetition and Rule of Three: Following in the footsteps of MLK, Winston Churchill, and others, Professor Lessig uses a classic rhetorical technique called Anaphora when he repeats his "you want - we will not get" phrase three times over.

  14. 17:33: Hard to Read Fonts: If you want to get your audience to pay attention, give them something hard to read. He uses that approach here with his "most important problem" slide. We wrote about this technique being used to overcome confirmation bias in Font Matters - A Trial Graphics Consultant's Trick to Overcome Bias.

    litigation consulting graphics jury trial technology
  15. 18:31: Return the Focus to the Speaker: Watch as he decelerates the volume of slides to return the focus to the speaker. This is intentional and signals he is done with the presentation of evidence and moving on to his closing.

  16. 19:25: Closing: He contrasts reality with a dream of equality and makes his emotional plea. He contrasts between potential and reality or as Nancy Duarte described it, what is vs. what could be.

  17. Throughout: Surprise: From font changes to the incorporation of video to the use of humor to his constantly varying slide style, Professor Lessig uses surprise to keep the audience engaged. It may be the most important persuasion technique used throughout the presentation, and we have written about it in Could Surprise Be One of Your Best Visual Persuasion Tools? and 5 Ways to Apply Active Teaching Methods for Better Persuasion.

There is a lot more Professor Lessig did right in this presentation, but these are some of the highlights. If you have been a reader of this blog for some time, these techniques should sound familiar. They are techniques employed by the world's best persuaders, they are the techniques we incorporate into our litigation graphics work, and every one of them can be used at trial to persuade more effectively.

Other A2L Consulting articles and resources related to PowerPoint presentations, visual presentation and rhetorical techniques:

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Tags: Trial Graphics, Litigation Graphics, Presentation Graphics, PowerPoint, Persuasive Graphics, Visual Persuasion, Persuasion

Do Professionally Designed PowerPoint Slides Get Better Results?

Posted by Ken Lopez on Tue, Nov 3, 2015 @ 09:50 AM

powerpoint professional graphic designer amatuer lawyer litigatorby Ken Lopez
Founder/CEO
A2L Consulting

In my last post, 7 Bad Habits of Law Firm Litigators, I wrote about the problems caused by litigators who, even when they have an adequate budget, design their own PowerPoint slides for trial. I've seen this result in:

Well, there's new problem to add to this list of challenges faced by litigators who design their own slides, and it was just revealed by a brand new study conducted by the Missouri School of Journalism and the Washington Post.

This study found that good visual design in online articles has been conclusively shown to promote reader interest, enjoyment, emotional engagement, ease of understanding, learning, and curiosity. Using brain, skin, and other biometric studies to analyze the effect on readers, the study's author found that clean and professional looking designs caused readers to be more engaged in almost every respect. The more streamlined the design, the better the results.

In this study (and in general), good design means breaking text into small manageable snippets, highlighting key points, and removing distracting elements from the screen. As the author noted, "If a story is presented well, readers will enjoy it more and engage with it more deeply." Isn't this precisely what litigators want from the PowerPoint presentations that support their expert witnesses and their own opening and closing presentations?

However, how many litigators are actually comfortable producing PowerPoint slides with a clean and uncluttered page design? In my experience (see How Much Text on a PowerPoint Slide is Too Much?), not many. Yet the benefits of clean visual design have rarely been so clearly articulated. Thus, it would seem that reliance on professional litigation graphic designers is more important than ever before. It's just not enough to use a PowerPoint template, some bullet points, and a goldfish photo and think you are producing good design.

At first glance, these new findings might seem to run counter to some things I've said before in articles like Litigation Graphics: It's Not a Beauty Contest or Good-Looking Graphic Design ≠ Good-Working Visual Persuasion, but I think it would wrong to draw that conclusion. Actually, I think these new findings are entirely consistent with our experience and these and other articles we've published like Why Expensive-Looking Litigation Graphics Are Better. The challenges for anyone designing litigation graphics in PowerPoint are many and include:

  • varying visual styles throughout a presentation intentionally to maintain interest;
  • mixing mediums with other tools like trial boards to maintain interest;
  • knowing when to show a blank screen;
  • knowing how and when to use fonts for emphasis and obfuscation;
  • knowing how and when to use fonts to overcome confirmation bias;
  • knowing how to use surprise to overcome confirmation bias;
  • avoiding the triggering of the split-attention effect;
  • knowing how switching between versions of PowerPoint will affect slides;
  • knowing how to properly embed video in PowerPoint slides;
  • understanding and using color theory;
  • matching the graphic style to the jury and judge;
  • avoiding bullet points like the plague;
  • keeping Rule 403 in mind with every slide;
  • just keeping text large enough on screen;
  • considering color choice and contrast for the display medium;
  • building incredibly complicated PowerPoint animations for a fraction of the cost of 3D animation;
  • avoiding black hat techniques;
  • decluttering slides;
  • building in a story;
  • knowing best practices for document call-outs of all types;
  • understanding how to use highlighting correctly to maintain image quality;
  • knowing how to manage PowerPoint presentation file size by managing images correctly;
  • understanding version control and enforcing it in the run-up to trial;
  • blending video and still images to maintain interest;
  • limiting text to small digestible chunks;
  • creating an emotional journey with your slides;
  • creating points of emphasis so that the critical can be easily separated from the superfluous;
  • trying to keep slide content limited to one key takeaway per slide;
  • and there's a lot more too.

It's a long list, right? And it's why I've said, litigation graphics are much more complicated than you think, and just because you can use PowerPoint (of course you can), don't assume you should design your own litigation graphics. You literally won't know what you are missing until it is too late.

More A2L articles, free downloadable e-books, and free webinars about good design, PowerPoint for lawyers and visual persuasion:

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Tags: Trial Graphics, Litigation Graphics, Demonstrative Evidence, Psychology, Storytelling, PowerPoint, Persuasive Graphics, Visual Persuasion, Trial Boards, Information Design

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Authors

KenLopez resized 152

Ken Lopez founded A2L Consulting in 1995. The firm has since worked with litigators from all major law firms on more than 10,000 cases with over $2 trillion cumulatively at stake.  The A2L team is comprised of psychologists, jury consultants, trial consultants, litigation consultants, attorneys and information designers who provide jury consulting, litigation graphics and trial technology.  Ken Lopez can be reached at lopez@A2LC.com.


tony-klapper-headshot-500x500.jpg 

Tony Klapper joined A2L Consulting after accumulating 20 years of litigation experience while a partner at both Reed Smith and Kirkland & Ellis. Today, he is the Managing Director of Litigation Consulting and General Counsel for A2L Consulting. Tony has significant litigation experience in products liability, toxic tort, employment, financial services, government contract, insurance, and other commercial disputes.  In those matters, he has almost always been the point person for demonstrative evidence and narrative development on his trial teams. Tony can be reached at klapper@a2lc.com.


dr laurie kuslansky jury consultant a2l consulting







Laurie R. Kuslansky, Ph.D., Managing Director, Trial & Jury Consulting, has conducted over 400 mock trials in more than 1,000 litigation engagements over the past 20 years. Dr. Kuslansky's goal is to provide the highest level of personalized client service possible whether one's need involves a mock trial, witness preparation, jury selection or a mock exercise not involving a jury. Dr. Kuslansky can be reached at kuslansky@A2LC.com.

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